Leaving your job — There’s a lot of baggage in that box of stuff
<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
By Ned Lundquist, ABC
Editor and publisher of the “Job of the Week”
It happened on the first of every month. When I worked at the Pentagon I would watch just-retired military people walking out of the building with a box of plaques and nameplates and a few other items. A whole career reduced to a box.
These days lots of people have had to leave work with their stuff in a box.
You’ve been laid off, too? It’s judgment day. What to put in that box?
“The first time I was laid off, the box had already been prepared for
me,” said Chicago-based communicator Michael Rubin. It contained “personal” items of mine like a photo, pen cup, mug, and an inspirational wall poster of Cal Ripken, Jr. that read: “PERSISTENCE.”
In his second and most recent layoff, Rubin says, “I was immediately
escorted out the building and not allowed to pick up anything other
than a copy of Fast Company magazine and some
medical receipts. They were afraid I was going to “steal” data on the
company laptop I had been given. “
Camilla Stroud of Falls Church, Va., recently went through “the box” from her last job, and found some really strange stuff. “Where on Earth did I get a Bugs Bunny Pez dispenser and Pez refills (unopened)?” she asks. “And why did I pack the little chocolates, instead of just eating them?”
When Jack Duggan left his job in Seattle for a life in the Oregon countryside, he packed carefully if sparingly. “First, I made a disk with all the good jokes I've been saving. Then I removed all the awards, certificates, pictures, pins, and decorations
from the walls. Finally, I threw in one small sticky pad to mark ads in
For Craig Jolley, a communicator from Springboro, Ohio, It would have been literally impossible for him to put all the accumulated stuff from nearly two decades of a career into one box. “I needed five large banker's boxes plus several egg boxes pilfered from the local grocery store.” He share’s with us his haul:
Various knick-knacks of speaker presents, awards, samples of direct
marketing campaigns collected over the years, letter openers, clocks, coffee
* Several framed pieces of artwork used in a very successful product launch
a decade ago.
* My library of business books, reference material, industry journals, etc.
* Accumulated samples of articles, speeches, presentations and white
* My bankers lamp.
* Samples of work projects I'm particularly proud of and/or could be of
value in the future.
* The company laptop computer – on loan until I found my next job.
What wasn’t in his box, but most valuable of all: “New skills, capabilities,
knowledge and contacts to add to my professional toolkit.”
For Floridian Jay Magee, whose position was eliminated the sour demand for IT software and professional services, “the Facilities staff thought I'd be carting away eight boxes, and they dropped eight large cardboard monsters off at my cube. But I had the last laugh — I only needed one!”
The box included his framed Dale Carnegie Course Certificate of Completion; pictures with his friends at Spring Break, his own Sharp electric calculator (the company’s cheap standard-issue hand-held solar-powered one never worked); various pre-acquisition corporate contraband items — license plates, annual reports, business cards — whatever wasn't confiscated and burned; the obligatory University of Florida paraphernalia items, including the coffee mug, post-it pads, gaudy football and basketball posters, and the mini-football (for nailing the FSU grads in the adjoining cubicles). Jay also found some slightly used paper clips. “I think they were in the boxes when I got them.”
“On my last day in the office the news had already leaked out about pending layoffs,” says designer Brian Terr.
“In fact, I had been given a heads up the day before and had moved most of the personal items out the day before — plaques, directories, AP Style Guide, etc. This was especially
helpful since my pass card was turned off the next mourning when I arrived to work — another sure sign you have been laid off.
“Some of the things I left behind, which I wish I still had, albeit not in a box, were some really good people. From a more practical standpoint, I had a change jar on my windowsill that had probably more than $20 in it. This was accumulated from the lunches we ate at from the restaurants across the street from the office. Since severance was what it was, I wished I had the extra $20.
“Since most of the journalists are keenly aware that as a communications person you know where all the bodies are buried, they had a tendency to come to me and ask for the inside dirt on the company and executives. While it may have seemed like a good idea immediately following the type of exit interview I had, compromising your own integrity for the actions of other is not a good practice to get into. I am glad I kept all those pieces of information tucked nicely away in the bottom of the only box I took out
of the office on my last day.”
Sure, he took his Rolodex, card files, and samples of his work, but Gregg Feistman also had his priorities straight when he packed his stuff.
“I took items that would help me in my job search, such as sample clips, a copy of the strategic communications plan I wrote and a sample press kit I put together, etc. Let me also note that everything I took was a duplicate. All the originals were left behind. Everything else I left for the next person to occupy my seat. But most importantly I brought my plush racecar that makes vroom-vroom noises when you tap it.
When I left the Naval Media Center in 2000 after four years in command and the culmination of a 24-year career, the movers took the better part of the morning. I had one box that was just mouse pads, and another box that’s mostly post-it notes (like my ones from the Associated Press that I got at the RTNDA convention, or those ones for some medicine used for yeast infections). I haven’t even unpacked all those boxes yet.
But when I was laid off from a trade association in October 2001, I had less to contend with. What did I leave behind? No loose ends. Everything accounted for. Like a professional. But I did have the box of stuff. My daughter recently got into it and took some of my wax lips, and the dog probably got the others. She’s been playing with my kazoo and now I can’t find it. The handle to my Naval Officer’s Sword letter opener is broken. Although nobody, not even the dog, took those nine-month-old purple marshmallow Easter “Peeps,” I am nevertheless deathly afraid the dog will swallow my bouncing balls that light up and make eerie noises. I’ve got my really good New Orleans beads and my Pawtucket Red Sox miniature baseball bat and bright neon “Electric Co-Op Today” plastic slinky. There’s my Jake Wittmer Award and my little carved figurine from Tobi Atoll along with my desk set that has the “Surface Warfare” and “Command Ashore” emblems engraved on it and the words “E.H. Lundquist, Commanding Officer, Naval Media Center.”
I had a few coffee mugs and my magnetized paper clip holder. But I never really moved into that office. I hadn’t even hung my prints because I was supposed to move down to the corner office. So I was waiting before I seriously decorated. That never happened. Too bad, I’d picked out my couch.
Hey, here’s my wax lips!
*** Ned Lundquist, ABC, (email@example.com), who writes this column when he gets mad about something, also writes the free Job of the Week networking newsletter for communications professionals from his home in Springfield, Virginia. (To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to: JOTWfirstname.lastname@example.org. To read this list on the web, visit: http://www.topica.com/lists/JOTW.) This column was prepared while wearing a USS Richard S. Edwards DD-950 Pearl Harbor T- shirt; Sony DVCAM ball cap; and drinking coffee from an IABC/Washington purple mug.